Everybody has a story to tell, but not everybody has enough courage to tell it. R.R. Hayden is definitely one of those who has no qualms about washing her dirty linen in public and risking people she cares about throwing furious anger on her way just so she can free her mind of traumatic childhood memories she has and heal. Writing each of those memories out is the only way she knows to accomplish them. So The Road to Becoming a Survivor is her medium to tell the life story which shaped her into a survivor that she is now, and she holds nothing back.
The Road to Becoming a Survivor is an autobiography telling of the writer’s struggle to change herself from a helpless victim of sexual abuse into a survivor. Hayden, a sufferer of Dissociative Identity Disorder, would tell the reader about her unfathomable pleasure of inflicting pain on her own body, namely cutting herself, and how she often did something unbelievably crazy without even realizing it and eventually hurt people she cared about most. She seemed to think that those were the only ways to wash away her recurrent depression and cure herself of deep wounds she had been carrying since childhood. As the narrative unfolds, we will all discover what she had had to go through for the most part of her life: sexual abuse by her father, older brother, neighbor, (ex-) boyfriend, and even someone she barely knew. She had also had to face the situation of her family, where, mainly, her mother didn’t treat her like a mother should have and love her sincerely and then just broke their family into two by filing for divorce. Until she met a man she loved so much and a counselor she could trust, she had to live with her deep-buried trauma and herself being a victim of not only unfair, abusive treatments she got but also of her own past.
Though pretty inspirational, The Road to Becoming a Survivor is not something exceptional, to be honest. The theme and narrative are all what we can expect from any other autobiographical account of sexual abuse victims, and the writing style doesn’t help, either. It is understandable that Hayden writes it the way anybody would write their secret diary gone public, perhaps she wants to make the reader feel related, but I actually expected her to put a lot more effort to make the prose more than just a form of personal ramblings. It is interesting, though, to see how Hayden puts her book together, in which she peels her memories little by little without an orderly chronicle, the way flashbacks work. It seems unintentional, but Hayden will take us to one moment of her life without any explanations, and then a few chapters afterward she will drag us to her past which explains everything. It’s an intriguing way of storytelling, actually, if only the story were more than what we get from the book. It’s not that I don’t have any sympathy for Hayden, but personally, I have heard of so many stories like hers, especially in my country, where children can be victims of sexual abuse by their own fathers/brothers/uncles/even grandfathers. And those children could have gone through a lot worse situations than what Hayden had to and couldn’t even survive. All I’m saying is, had the writing style been better or the form been more of semi-autobiographical fiction, then the story wouldn’t have been a problem at all. It could have even been a blast. Sometimes it’s not about what you write, but how you write it.
Aside from its lack of excellence, the story doesn’t seem to be in accordance with the title. Throughout the blatant narrative, I didn’t find anything regarding the way Hayden became a survivor of sexual abuse. I found merely long-lost memories and stories of her recent past without so much as a glimpse of how she could get through all that except for a very little bit about her coming to a counselor and a support group. There is no particular explanation highlighting her “road” to becoming a survivor that she is now. In short, I’d say that this book is not quite elaborate, or as elaborate as at least I think it should be. However, if there is one positive thing readers can get from it, then it is its message. The Road to Becoming a Survivor and everything within remind us that anything can happen to anyone, but we cannot let ourselves fall victim to it and do nothing. The only way to survive is to fight the horrible past and all the bad memories we carry in our head, and be grateful for everything we have. Be grateful is the key, because that way we will be able to see that we are not the only one suffering and that we are not alone. That we can always rise to victory after the downfall we’ve undergone.
Note: review copy courtesy of the author.